Tag Archives | albums

Top Five Albums — 2012

It’s time again for my top five albums of the year. As I was preparing for this post, and I’ve probably always known this, I realized that while I love music, I’m not going to spend time searching for the unheard-of bands, or the albums that no one knows of. I’m not a true audiophile in that sense. But I do love good music. I could never compile a list like Steve McCoy’s. I don’t have the time or the budget. And to be fair, I’m certain that there are several albums on Steve’s list that would be included in mine. No, my tastes are slightly more mainstream. And while you’ll never see the likes of today’s Pop Stars on this list you will most likely know the bands that are mentioned here.

Top Five — 2010
Top Five — 2011

Just like last year, I thought I would mention several albums that were good, but didn’t make the list 1.

Honorable Mentions

This year’s most disappointing album was Battle Born by The Killers. I was really looking forward to it, but goodness, what a mess. They seem miles away from the band that gave us Hot Fuss & Sam’s Town.

Top Five

valtari5. Sigur RosValtari

This band is Icelandic. I have no idea what they’re singing, which is okay because some of their songs use a non-literal language…basically made up sounds. It’s called Vonlenska. Wikipedia calls them an ambient/post-rock band. It doesn’t matter their language, or what Wikipedia calls them…they’re good. The music is ethereal and mesmerizing.

Best song: Fjögur píanó

 
 
grizzlybear

4. Grizzly BearShields

I didn’t pick this album up until really late in the year…but I can’t stop listening to it. Initially it reminded me of My Morning Jacket. But Grizzly Bear is better, both musically and lyrically. This album features great harmonies between Edward Droste & Daniel Rossen.

Best Song: Sun In Your Eyes

Fallen once, you’ll fall again
And lean on
Your tired hands, the crawling grass
The soft ground

lumineers3. The LumineersThe Lumineers

You know the Lumineers because you’ve likely heard Ho Hey about a thousand times on the radio. Fortunately the album is more than that one song. And fortunately, most of the other songs are better than Ho Hey. Lyrically easy on the ears…and you can sing along with all the songs.

Best Song: Stubborn Love

It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love’s indifference
Pay attention now, I’m standing on your porch screaming out
And I wont leave until you come downstairs

monsters2. Of Monsters and MenMy Head Is An Animal

The guitar intro on the first song, Dirty Paws, instantly hooked me…and I didn’t stop listening. This is an  album that takes the listener from a story about bees, birds, and creatures with Dirty Paws to a romantic discourse between lovers in Little Talks. Incidentally, this band is also from Iceland. What is it about good music coming from Iceland? I thought Björk was that country’s only export. The music is whimsical, wispy, a little folksy…and good.

Best Song: Little Talks

You’re gone, gone, gone away
I watched you disappear
All that’s left is a ghost of you
Now we’re torn, torn, torn apart
There’s nothing we can do
Just let me go, we’ll meet again soon

mumford1. Mumford & SonsBabel

In my past two years I’ve had albums that might have been slightly controversial…nothing major, but enough for some to question. Maybe Babel is this years controversy. Mumford, despite huge success and a brilliant first album, Sigh No More, have collected a group of haters along the way. Apparently Mumford is now formulaic…tired…not original. Apparently their second album was supposed to depart from who they are, and what made them successful. I don’t think U2 was asked to reinvent themselves on their second album. They didn’t try that almost disastrous experiment until their 8th & 9th albums. So let the haters hate. I love this album. It was easily my favorite album of the year. While My Head Is An Animal was good, it really was a distant second.

This album is filled with arena worthy anthems. Babel  is more polished than it’s predecessor, but still fills familiar. It is pregnant with spiritual undertones and hard love. It slows down, speeds up, stops, and then does it all over again.

It’s hard to pick a favorite song on this album. In fact, it’s easier to pick the few songs I didn’t like as much. One song that really grew on me was Lover of the Light. A first listen caused me to pause and say, “wait a second, when did they become the Dave Matthews Band?” Listen to the beginning of the song…you’ll see what I mean. But once I saw the video it completely changed things for me. We lived in Wales (UK) for five years…and the video for this song was shot in Wales. We became fans of Idris Elba while living there as well. Idris directed and starred in the video. It’s an excellent story. Watch for yourself.

Having said that, Lover of the Light isn’t my favorite song on the album. Hopeless Wanderer gets that title. It reminds me of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (which happens to be my favorite song of all time). It’s a story of searching for truth…of knowing it, and then not.

You heard my voice I came out of the woods by choice
Shelter also gave their shade
But in the dark I have no name

So leave that click in my head
And I will remember the words that you said
Left a clouded mind and a heavy heart
But I was sure we could see a new start

So when your hope’s on fire
But you know your desire
Don’t hold a glass over the flame
Don’t let your heart grow cold
I will call you by name
I will share your road

But hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
And hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer

I wrestled long with my youth
We tried so hard to live in the truth
But do not tell me all is fine
When I lose my head, I lose my spine

So leave that click in my head
And I won’t remember the words that you said
You brought me out from the cold
Now, how I long, how I long to grow old

So when your hope’s on fire
But you know your desire
Don’t hold a glass over the flame
Don’t let your heart grow cold
I will call you by name
I will share your road

But hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
And hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under
I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under
The skies I’m under

Hopeless Wanderer – Live
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaIZhKkgteA&feature=share&list=UUhPzV-uAKhVMguKI7RB8uGQ

As always, let me know your thoughts – where you agree, or not.

Notes:

  1. All links are Amazon Affiliate links

Buy Good Music

Black Friday has become a ridiculous excuse to partake in the accumulation of junk…but that’s a rant for another day. Music, however, does not fall into the category of junk. And Black Friday brings about great deals on great music. Here are a few albums you should go buy 1 now:

Notes:

  1. all links are Amazon Affiliate links

Top Five Albums–2011

Despite what a friend said last year about 2010 being a bad year for music, I thought it was a good year. Maybe that’s because Mumford & Sons Sigh No More and Arcade Fire’s Suburbs are 2 of my favorite albums. In fact, I would argue that 2011 was no better than 2010, and in some respects, a little worse. I don’t think there was a stand out album this year. There were definitely some good ones, but nothing grabbed me quite like last years albums did.  There were several good albums that didn’t make my top five…my Honorable Mentions if you will. They include in no particular order: The Black Keys – El Camino, Sigur Rós – Inní, The Decemberists – The King is Dead, Radiohead – The King of Limbs, and The Poison Tree – The Poison Tree. One album, in particular, was good, but didn’t quite live up to expectations, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto. And there was one album, that for the life of me I can’t quite figure out why it’s included in most everyone’s top 10 list – PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake. I thought it was a contrived, over sold, preachy, screeching mess. My top five this year leans toward the somber and sad, with one exception. My list is varied and very different from last years list. But like last year, I’m including an album that might incite a little ridicule by my friends. Oh well, I liked it.

#5 Adele – 21
Like Brandon Flowers last year, this choice might catch a little ridicule. But let’s be honest, Adele’s voice is second to none. The vocals on this album are simply amazing. I thought I would tire of this album after a few listens, but I keep coming back to it. Sad at times, empowering at others, well rounded, solid. Best song – Take It All

 

#4 Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys
Probably the most upbeat of my five albums (Stay Young, Go Dancing), and Death Cab for Cutie’s best album to date. Driving bass, a saloon piano, and maybe a little bit too much hi-hat. But you’ll be tapping your foot, and singing along. Best Song – Portable Television

 

#3 Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Wispy, airy, singing out in a wheat field kind of sound, but with amplification. The first three songs warm you up, almost like inside pitches in baseball, they get you ready – then Battery Kinzie is like a fastball right over the middle of the plate…a strong, sit up straight kind of song. Crisp guitars, tight vocals, a really nice album. Best song – Helplessness Blues

 

#2 Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Listen to the first song, Perth, and wait for the swell at the 2:35 mark – you’ll be hooked. The lead singer, Justin Vernon, sings a lot in falsetto and it works. The song titles are mainly geographical (Perth, Minnesota, Hinnom, Calgary, Lisbon), and the lyrics may not make the most sense. But the album works, and you’ll want to continue to listen. Best Song – Calgary

 

#1 Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!
I am amazed at how this album has been left off list after list for top albums of the year. Maybe it’s because Elbow doesn’t get much play here in the States. I found Elbow, or maybe they found me, while living in the UK. Their previous album, The Seldom Seen Kid, was really good and was met with critical acclaim  – in the UK at least – but Build A Rocket Boys! is exponentially better in my opinion. It is melancholy and somber, yet inspiring and uplifting. With songs like Neat Little Rows it is anthemic, and it is reflective with The Night Will Always Win. The lyrics are tight, with each song telling a story. The music doesn’t get in the way, but is good enough to stand on it’s own. I simply love this album.

And let me say a few things about the album’s best song – Open Arms. There are very few songs that extend beyond themselves…that move you at your core…that touch your soul…that become part of the story of your life. Until Open Arms the only song that I would put in that special category was U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. This song, this year, was for me. It is me. It is both the man I am, and the man I hope to be. In a year that was undeniably difficult for me this song brought me to tears, and face to face with God. Lyrically it captures the story of the prodigal son, found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15:11-32. It tells the story of a community that welcomes back with open arms the man that once left them. This community, in celebration, reminds the man of the boy he used to be, and says “It’s okay, you’re home, and you’re accepted.” I’m posting the lyrics below for you to read through, but if you have $5.00 go buy the album on Amazon, or just spend 99¢ on the song.

You’re a law unto yourself
And we don’t suffer dreamers
But neither should you walk the earth alone

So with finger rolls and folding chairs
And a volley of streamers
We can be there for tweaks and repairs
Should you come back home

We got open arms for broken hearts
Like yours my boy, come home again

Tables are for pounding here
And when we’ve got you surrounded
The man you are will know the boy you were

And you’re not the man who fell to earth
You’re the man of La Mancha
And we’ve love enough to light the street
‘Cause everybody’s here

We got open arms for broken hearts
Like yours my boy, come home again
We got open arms for broken hearts
Like yours my boy, come home again

Everyone’s here
Everyone’s here
The moon is out looking for trouble
And everyone’s here

Everyone’s here
Everyone’s here
The moon wants a scrap or a cuddle
And everyone’s here

We got open arms for broken hearts
Like yours my boy, come home again
We got open arms for broken hearts
Like yours my boy, come home again

Everyone’s here
Everyone’s here
Everyone’s here
Come home again

The moon is out looking for trouble
The moon wants a scrap or a cuddle
The moon is face down in a puddle
And everyone’s here

As always, I’d love to hear your opinion, and your favorites this year.

(Links are Amazon Affiliate links)

A Good List

I’ll have my top 5 list up in a couple of days, but it won’t be nearly as thorough as Steve’s.

Top Five Albums—2010

Everyone has their lists this time of year, from top grossing movies to the top searches on Google. It only makes sense that I add my own list for 2010…albeit a short one. My top five albums for 2010 are not based on anything other than what I liked the most. Of course, I listened, and purchased more than five albums this year, but these are my favourite. Enjoy.

1. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More.
A truly incredible album. Folk, Country, and Rock all wrapped up into one unique sound. Driving, beating anthems, and moody, passionate real life lyrics. With spiritual undertones and love lost, it could be anyone’s story. I’ve yet to tire listening to this album. For those in the UK, yes this was released toward the end of 2009. But in the US it wasn’t released until February, 2010. So I’m cheating a little…playing to both audiences. If there’s a way for me to sneak it into my top five for 2011 I might do it.

Best Lyric: In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life. Awake My Soul.

2. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs.
While Sigh No More could be anyone’s album, The Suburbs was my album. I immediately connected with this album about the result of suburban sprawl, the new culture it creates, and the culture that is left to die downtown. This is clearly an “American” album (even though the band is from Montreal). I’ve wondered how British listeners would relate to songs about the suburbs when the cities here in the UK are very different from the US. When I hear these songs I immediately think of Dallas and Houston and wonder what cities the British listener thinks of.

Best Lyric: You never trust a millionaire quoting the sermon on the mount;
I used to think I was not like them but I’m beginning to have my doubts, my doubts about it. City With No Children.

3. The National – High Violet (Expanded Edition)
To be honest, any of my top three albums could have been number one, but High Violet has to settle for number 3. The National have been around for a while, but I just found them this year. After purchasing High Violet first I’ve gone back and purchased their Boxer album and their self titled debut album. Boxer is also very good. High Violet is moody, and melancholy, and gloomy, and full of emotion. Matt Berninger’s voice is like a drug…you can’t get enough of it. My most listened to tracks: Terrible Love, Bloodbuzz Ohio, and Conversation 16. Listening to High Violet causes me to see myself in a movie, driving down a foggy lane with high hedges, in the middle of the night, not knowing where the road leads. Any album that can transport me to “another place” like that easily fits in my top five.

Best Lyric: I still owe money to the money to the money I owe. Bloodbuzz Ohio.

4. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
For some, mainly those that follow me in the States, this will be a controversial inclusion…primarily because of the language and themes found in this album. But musically speaking, this album is a masterpiece. Yes, it’s rough. Yes, it can be hard to listen to at times. Yes, it’s probably possible to write a song without using the F-bomb 896 times, but then it wouldn’t be Kanye, and it wouldn’t be as good. One thing that must be done when listening to this album…you must constantly remind yourself of the album’s title. The songs here definitely comprise a dark, twisted, and sometimes beautiful fantasy. I don’t for one second think that some of the themes found in this album represent real life for Kanye West. Also worth mentioning is the list of cameos by other artists: Bon Iver, John Legend, Beyonce, Jaz-Z, and samples from King Crimson. Rolling Stone has this as their #1 album for 2010.

Best Lyric: The youngsters who were programmed to continue f**king up, woke up one night digging Paul Revere and Nat Turner as the good guys. Who Will Survive In America.

As an extra bit of reading related to why I think it’s okay as a Christian to include an album like this in my top 5: Mark Driscoll – Why Christians Go Postal Over Facebook, Jay-Z, Yoga, Avatar, and Culture in General

5. Brandon Flowers – Flamingo (Deluxe Version)
I’m still not quite sure why this is a Brandon Flowers album, and not a Killers album…they are one in the same in my opinion. This is a great anthemic album, yet some might giggle at my inclusion. I guess I’m drawn to the lyrics and Brandon has written some good ones. Every song can easily be sung along with, except for Swallow It, which is a ridiculous song. The best songs on the album are: Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Only the Young, and Playing With Fire.

Best Lyric: This church of mine may not be recognised by steeple,
That doesn’t mean that I will walk without a God. Playing With Fire.

The good albums that didn’t quite make it:
Vampire Weekend – Contra
Bombay Bicycle Club – Flaws
The Acorn – No Ghost

Let me know what you think, but be nice about it. And let me know what your top albums were for this year. While I listen to a lot of music, I’m sure I missed some very good albums.

(links are Amazon Affiliate links)